When I was young, much of my waking life revolved around the various forts I had stationed around my early childhood home in a small town in Pennsylvania. These included, but were not limited to, my mattress, which I partially flung off my bed every morning in a fit of rebellion, our enormous deck that my father had built, underneath which I could often be found climbing amongst the pylons and digging for worms (to force my brother to eat), and on the carpet under the baby grand piano in our living room.
If the weather was crap, or it was early in the day and I hadn’t yet mustered the gumption to venture into the backyard, I would nestle under the piano with our dog, Groucho, as dad plunked and tripped his way through Chopin while slurping his third cup of coffee. My brother Jon sometimes squirmed his way under and commenced prodding me in the leg with the tail of his Brontosaurus toy until I screamed and one of my parents dragged him out and sent him toddling off elsewhere.
It was under this piano, one day, after I had eaten my umpteenth banana for a snack, that I resolutely declared that bananas and I were finished. I stubbornly and uncharacteristically swore off a formerly beloved fruit and did not eat another plain banana for years. YEARS, people.
A decade or so later, at age sixteen, we lived in the suburbs of Washington, DC, and had just moved from our perfectly leafy and type-A power colonial to a townhouse with an elevator, so my mother, whose cancer had progressed to a point at which she was wheelchair-bound, could move about easily. Unfortunately, she never got to see the townhouse. By the time my father had signed, settled, and boxed up our exceedingly delicate existence, she had died, and the three of us + dog were suddenly faced with puzzling together a new reality with a very critical piece missing.
My dad, when he applies himself, is a very good cook, but when I was a kid, he handled three meals, and three meals only: Taco Night, Rib Night, and scrambled eggs on the occasional weekend, to which he would add soy sauce and torn-up squares of that staple of the 90’s suburban kitchen: American cheese. So, I started cooking. I was applying to college, trying to gracefully wrap up my tenure at an absurdly stressful high school, and I was motherless. Pasta figured heavily in my repertoire, as did couscous, sandwiches, and anything involving cream. Long absent from my life, I suddenly wanted bananas again…but instead of eating them raw, I fried them in butter and brown sugar until they caramelized. I ate this several times a week, ignoring the caloric ramifications as comfort food was the order of the day. One evening, as I headed upstairs to my room, my dad made a seemingly innocent, offhand comment that it looked like I had put on a few pounds. I love my father, but at the time, I hated him in that way only a teenage daughter can, and his incessant stiff-upper-lip commentary was precisely the opposite of sensitive. Likely what happened immediately after was that I howled and bitched, sprinted to my room on the 4th floor, and called my friend Alex to come over and hang out. “Hang out” was code for get stoned, which was a frequent occurence in the Atwood household between 1999-2001. I did not have a drop of alcohol in high school, but my friends and I smoked a good deal of pot, and my house became our band nerd clubhouse as we naively assumed that the smell couldn’t possibly escape my bedroom, and my father would be none the wiser. Thinking back on that now, I realize that I was a stunning idiot. Dad was in a fraternity at Cornell in the 60’s, and very clearly must have known about my giggling posse and our deviant behavior. Bless his heart, he never said a word, and in his own, weird, uncommunicative Atwood man sort of way, it was exactly the sort of sensitivity I needed. (Dad, if you’re reading this, and somehow you did NOT know…..hello! So sorry! Cheers!)
Nowadays, I only sometimes fry my bananas in butter (sometimes, occasion demands it! and, uh, it’s delicious). Last night, Chris and ransacked the kitchen at about 9 o’clock, in need of snacks. I dove into the peanut butter jar with a spoon, and he reached into the fruit basket for a banana, and stuffed it, whole, into a sprouted wheat wrap thing with a not small gob of the peanut butter. I eyed it, enviously, but like the good kind wife that I am, I didn’t steal any, but instead sprawled myself out over the entirety of the sofa in an act of jealous defiance. My companion for the evening was Nigel Slater’s book Thirst. I will not stop until I own every one of Nigel’s books. I love him so, and wish we could be best friends. Anyway. This book, as is obvious from the title, is all about things one can drink. I reached the chapter on bananas, and knew that this morning, Tuesday, on my new weekend (see personal note below….!!!!!), I would make a banana smoothie, just for me, and that it would be awesome, because Nigel said so. And I did, and it was. I highly recommend you make one, too. Thanks to the gentle and persistent tang of good greek yogurt, the sweetness of the ripe banana mellowed and smoothly rounded out a rush of floral from the bit of honey and vanilla chucked in. Also, it’s important to note that the the texture of this drink is akin to melted ice cream. If you are anything like me, and used to stir your bowls of ice cream until they melted into a soft sludge, and then drink them, you will enjoy this very much.
Banana, Honey, and Vanilla Smoothie
from Nigel Slater’s Thirst
2 large, ripe bananas
1 cup of plain yogurt (I used a good local greek-style yogurt)
Half of a vanilla bean
2 tablespoons honey
an ice cube
Peel the bananas, break them into chucks, and put them in the blender with the yogurt, honey, and an ice cube. Slice the vanilla bean piece in half lengthwise, and using the point of a small knife, scrape out all the sticky little black seeds and add them to the blender. Blend. Pour into a glass, and drink immediately.
Yields 1 large glass
***So, a lot has happened since the last time I wrote here. First of all, my laptop was stolen last fall, hence the lack of writing, and it only recently dawned on me that I could use my ipad! Duh, Sarah. Duh. Also, after a year and a half of working in a relatively corporate environment as a post-graduate school interior designer, I realized I was miserable (and that I had post-it notes littering my desk listing thoughts about food and recipes to try), so a few weeks ago, I quit. Now, thanks to the fabulousness and supportiveness that are my friends Molly and Brandon, I am cooking at Delancey, and my new, much-improved life revolves around the things that I love: really great food, strange hours, and a fantastic crew of insanely talented people. I am lucky, and so so happy, and plan to be around this place a lot more now. Hurrah for change!